How To Identify Balloon Frame Construction?

How To Identify Balloon Frame Construction
It’s the building type all firefighters should dread as fire will spread fast and unhampered through the walls and floors A successful fireground operation begins with a proper size-up that identifies the type of construction involved. Balloon-frame style construction is one of the two most common styles of traditional wood-frame construction, with platform frame construction being the next most common. How To Identify Balloon Frame Construction Note the interconnected floor joist channels to the exterior wall stud channels. This allows not only rapid vertical fire spread within the wall, but horizontal fire spread underneath the floors and above ceilings. Diagram courtesy of David A. Kropp of DAK Home Inspections.

  1. Platform frame became popular after World War II and shortened the exterior walls to 8 or 10 feet and provided fire stopping between floors.
  2. Fire’s pathway The lack of fire stopping within the exterior walls can pose a major challenge for firefighters.
  3. In addition, the joist channels underneath the floors are interconnected with the exterior wall stud channels.

A basement or interior fire that enters this void space can result in vertical and lateral fire spread throughout the structure. If conditions permit, check the attic void soon after arrival. Once fire gains control of the wall and floor voids, it often dooms the structure.

It is common to find a large finished room within the attic of these homes. This further complicates accessing a fire that has extended into the attic void. I responded to a fire in a balloon-frame residence one evening in which the fire originated in the basement. Several minutes after crews gained entry into the basement, fire began to vent from the attic windows.

We discovered the attic room had a finished hardwood skating rink installed over the floor, covering the entire top floor of the residence. Another common avenue of fire spread within a balloon-frame structure is the transoms. The transom is an operable window above interior room doors to allow air circulation while the door is closed. Wolf in sheep’s clothing Until recently, it was reasonable to assume most two-story or greater wood-frame homes built before World War II were balloon-frame. However, modern lightweight wood-frame construction methods can achieve the look of older Victorian-style construction.

  • Do not be deceived.
  • Fire spread characteristics and collapse potential are vastly different in lightweight wood frame structures compared to homes of the balloon-frame era.
  • Often, the true balloon-frame constructed homes will be located in older neighborhoods built in that era, and may exceed 5,000 square feet.
You might be interested:  Which Dr Fixit Is Best For Roof?

Whereas, the new lightweight-constructed homes will likely be in newly developed locations. Their average size is between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet. A closer look at a newly built home will reveal building materials not available in the early 20 th century, such as vinyl siding, vinyl window, synthetic porch decking and decorative trim.

Safety precautions Traditional balloon frame homes were often built and can be identified with native stone or block used in the foundations. Original lot sizes found in many traditional homes tend to be narrow and deep, compared to lots built upon in recent years, which tend to be wider and less deep.

Additionally, these units are also being converted from a single-family dwelling into multiple apartments, frat houses, and bed-and-breakfast type occupancies are common. Multiple occupants should be expected in these conversions often with the only means of egress being a single, narrow interior stairwell.

Fires in balloon-frame homes can rapidly spread throughout the structure in a variety of ways, entrapping unsuspecting occupants. Such was the case of an early morning house fire in Stamford, Conn. on Christmas Day 2011, which claimed the lives of five family members. Firefighters must be prepared for a variety of challenges, with limited staffing, when arriving on scene of a balloon-frame structure fire.

These fires will be labor intensive and will pose a significant challenge for firefighters. Training and pre-incident planning are essential for successful operations. In addition, public education training is essential for the occupants regarding the importance of smoke alarms and escape planning.

Monday, 06 June 2011 19:46 One of the most common framing methods of a single family home in Riverdale Park is balloon framing. Balloon framing is a method of wood construction that was used primarily in the United States up until the mid-1950s. The balloon wall studs extend from the sill of the first story all the way to the top plate end rafter of the stories above the first story of a home. This common type of framing was identical to the home that caught fire on the morning of March 27, 2011, at 4711 Oliver Street. During that incident, the fire department had to do extensive overhaul which included opening up the walls from inside and outside to make certain that the fire had not traveled within the studs. While that looked like a lot of damage, opening up the walls allows the fire department to make their best effort to check for fire extension, thus allowing for less extensive damage. As a homeowner you might be wondering how to tell if your house is balloon frame construction? The most common characteristics of balloon frame constructed houses are that the windows are stacked. Meaning that the windows on the second floor are directly above those on the first floor. You may actually be able to go up into the attic of your home, and drop a stone or coin and it would end up on the basement floor seconds later. You may add a “firestop” of various components that are used to seal openings and joints and block combustible gases from moving upward through your home like a chimney. But without going into extensive remodeling of the home, the best thing a resident can do is to always practice fire safety! SMOKE DETECTORS SAVE LIVES, Smoke detectors should be on every livable level of the house. Create and practice an escape plan with every member of your household. Check the batteries in your smoke detector twice a year. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local fire department (Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department @ 301-883-7707

You might be interested:  How To Speed Up Construction Project?
Next >


What is a balloon frame structure?

Framing systems are an alternative to mass wall construction. Mass walls are made by stacking horizontal layers of material. Examples include adobe, masonry, and log cabins. A balloon frame structure is a timber frame structure, where the studs run continuously from the sole plate to the rafter plate.

Why is balloon framing so popular?

What is the purpose of balloon framing? – The major benefit of balloon framing over platform framing is that it has a higher wind load strength than the latter. Balloon framing is quite popular in hurricane-prone locations because of the way the roof structure is connected to the sole plate by the continuous studs.

How are balloons constructed?

Balloon Frame Construction – Balloon frame construction consists of a wooden structure, and ligaments holding the structure together. In balloon framing, vertical studs connect the entire height of the building from foundation slabs to rafters, as opposed to a platform frame where each floor is framed separately.

What is the difference between a balloon frame and timber building?

What Is the Difference Between Platform Frame vs. Balloon Frame? – Since balloon frames are commonly used as the design to follow, many builders and homeowners are singing their praises and immediately adapted the design into their own homes, making it widespread and industrialized. However, platform framing swept the prior in their feet, making it the innovative version.

  1. While balloon framing is popularized in North America, “Platform framing” was coined in Switzerland to describe the technique of framing platforms on a platform.
  2. Instead of using tall studs, they used timbers to eliminate the need for the balloon frame technique in most cases.
  3. Talking about the timbers, one of the most significant distinctions between the two structures is that the balloon frame employs extremely long studs from the foundation up to the rafters.
You might be interested:  What Is Meant By Object Oriented Construction?

Platform frames are different from the balloon because building it will separate studs on each story, rather than employing the same measures as the former building design. The platform only demonstrates a significant improvement in the uniformity of its parts as well as its flexibility.